A good week for Technorati

In a week dominated by discussion of Six Apart’s acquisition of LiveJournal, Technorati has had its fair share of news.

Developer’s Contest

Technorati announced their developer’s contest winner, Joshua Tauberer, whose GovTrack uses the Technorati API to track the status of bills on the floor of Congress. This entry fits in neatly with Technorati’s interest in tracking politics, which it did in the run up to the Presidential election via a dedicated area on the site.

I would, however, like to see Tauberer and Technorati spread their interest a little wider than home-grown politics and develop GovTrack to look at data from other countries. Whilst Technorati is an American company, they have here an opportunity to broaden a few horizons by acknowledging that their user base is global and that in order to be truly useful applications of their API need to be global too.

It’ll be interesting to see what Technorati does next with the code that’s been written for their API. At the moment, it’s all dispersed around the web with varying quality of instruction for users. Having got this far, it would be good to see Technorati bring together their winners (there were five runners-up) and help them groom their code further for more widespread public use.

Boolean Operands and Watchlists

Dave Sifry announced last week that Technorati now allows you to create watchlists (cosmos searches that you want to keep an eye on) from keywords using complex search terms. Once your watchlist has been created you can use the RSS feed to keep up to date with new items as they come in.

In your keyword search, either for a cosmos or a watchlist, you can now use “” to enclose a set phrase, () to enclose a sub-phrase, and the Boolean operands OR, AND and NOT. (Note: the CAPS are important – don’t use lower case). This allows you to get very specific with your searches and weed out a lot of the cruft that can get in the way of good results.

But as far as I can tell, they do not have wildcard symbols, which is a shame. If I want to look for “social network*” where * equals any ending, I have to think of the variants myself – ‘social AND (network OR networks OR networking)’. Nor can I replace a word in a phrase, e.g. “too * to be true” to find ‘too good to be true’ or ‘too fishy to be true’, or a letter in a word, e.g. ‘stac?’ to find ‘stacy’ or ‘staci’, as you can in Google.

Another limitation is that you can’t sort your keyword search results by authority – it will only display the most recent entries. If, for example, you are searching for information on a current event and you want to see which entries have most links, you are going to have to wade through all your search results and pick them out by hand. That’s a shame because the authority view would be very useful when trying to get a feel for how the blogsphere is reacting to big news.

Quick Claim

Technorati have also now made the blog claiming process easier. Whereas before you had to insert a piece of code into your blog template so that Technorati could verify that you really do own the blog you say you own, you can now do that using your blog username and password. This allows Technorati to call your blog API to make sure that the URI, username and password all match, thus verifying your ownership.

This new Quick Claim works for all the major blog vendors such as TypePad, MT, Blogger and Blogware. Joey deVilla has a great ‘how to’ for Blogware users but the principle is the same for all blog platforms.

Technorati Searchlets

Finally, Technorati are now providing searchlets – code that you can add to your blog to provide a search facility. The code is automatically customised for your blog and allows users to search either your blog individually or all blogs indexed by Technorati.

Technorati have been developing some useful services over the last few months, and I’m glad to see them continuing this trend. I would, however, like to see them address some nuts and bolts problems with Technorati, such as the discrepancies between ‘most recent’ and ‘by authority’ URI search results, and between your own cosmos stats and your stats as displayed in a someone else’s cosmos; the listing of internal blog references (i.e. when I link to a post of my own) in that blog’s cosmos; and the inability to cleanly deal with blog hosting companies whose software creates two URIs for the main page, e.g. http://chocnvodka.blogware.com and http://chocnvodka.blogware.com/blog.

I would also again like to state that the Technorati site needs a redesign – its navigation is far from optimal, forcing as it does the user to keep going back to the main page in order to get to different areas of the site. I dislike websites that have their content divided into silos that you can’t jump sideways between, particularly sites as small (in terms of pages, not database size) as Technorati. Their navigation at the moment is dire from a usability point of view and it desperately needs fixing.

Disclosure: My personal blog is hosted at Blogware, and I am a friend of Kevin Marks at Technorati. At least, I hope I am, after this.

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